fter a year of over-optimistic bluster, the prime minister is in the happier position of being able to revise his cautious coronavirus targets in a hopeful direction. Boris Johnson announced that the plan to offer a first dose of a vaccine to all adults by “autumn” has been accelerated to the end of July, while the target for offering a first dose to over-50s and younger adults “at risk” has moved from the end of April to 15 April.
There are good grounds for thinking that these targets are still designed to be easily beaten. As the rate of vaccination continues to increase, it should be possible to offer a vaccine to all over-50s by the end of March, and to all adults well before the end of June.
However, the tactic of underpromising and overdelivering is a sensible one. Usually, The Independent would favour the setting of an almost impossible target, in order to exert maximum pressure on the bureaucracy. That was the approach to increasing testing capacity last year. It was the right approach then, even if it led to some dubious double counting. But the vaccination programme is different, in that the constraint is not organising the injections, but the supplies of the vaccines. Those supplies were largely determined some time ago, and here we repeat our praise of Kate Bingham, the former head of the vaccines taskforce, whose ambitious and farsighted work ensured that the UK is better placed in that respect than any other large nation.